How Singapore

kicked prisoner reentry success into high gear

with its Yellow Ribbon Project

SINGAPORE’S YELLOW RIBBON Project, launched in 2004, changes how people think about returning prisoners. The high profile project attracts roughly 10,000 runners for its annual 6K run. The project’s mission is “to engage the community in accepting ex-offenders and their families, giving them a second chance at life and to inspire a ripple effect of concerted community action to support ex-offenders and their families.”

THE PROJECT GOT ITS NAME from the 1960s folk song, “Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Old Oak Tree.” In the U.S., the symbol of the yellow ribbon has come to be associated with soldiers away and the hope for their safe return. But the song itself was about a released prisoner. Singapore uses the original meaning of the song to create a public virtue out of granting second chances to those whose lives have been marred by bad decisions — and, often, bad circumstances that led to bad decisions.

In this short clip, Werts describes how shocked he was to pass the GED (0:45)

Longer conversation at Penn State about his pathway to redemption. (26:47)

Other voices